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Cobra ACXT145 Review

A tiny radio, but it lacks useful capabilities
Cobra ACXT145
Photo: Cobra
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Price:  $50 List | $29.98 at Amazon
Pros:  Tiny, lightweight
Cons:  Poor range, hard to operate, poor battery life
Manufacturer:   Cobra
By Gray Grandy ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 26, 2020
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42
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 9
  • Range and Clarity - 30% 2
  • Ease of Use - 25% 4
  • Weather Resistance and Durability - 15% 4
  • Battery Life - 15% 4
  • Weight and Size - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Cobra ACXT145's main asset is its small size. It has below average range, so it is not well suited for activities where you will get separated a long distance from your partner. The Cobra has average battery life and sub-par ease of use. While it stood up to our testing, Cobra offers no specifications of water resistance. Compared to other options that are cheaper, this radio was the lowest scoring in our tests but could be a good option if small size and weight are paramount in your decision making.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Cobra ACXT145
This Product
Cobra ACXT145
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $29.98 at Amazon$189.96 at Amazon$70 List$70 List$29.95 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
42
68
54
54
53
Star Rating
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Pros Tiny, lightweightEasy to use, great range, great battery life, good weather resistanceSmall size, solid range, water resistantExcellent range, has an extraordinary amount of features/settings, good battery lifeInexpensive, small and light, water resistant, has privacy codes
Cons Poor range, hard to operate, poor battery lifeLarge and heavy, very expensiveMore expensive, poor battery life, questionable quality controlDifficult to set up and learn to use, has the capability to get you in trouble with the FCCPoor range, inaccurate battery indicator
Bottom Line One of our lowest scoring radios, with its size being its strongest assetAside from its larger size, this radio performed with excellence all around, especially in ease of useBattery life and the price are the two weakest points of the X-Talker 36 that otherwise has solid range, small size, and water resistanceLicensed ham radio operators will appreciate the amazing range and tons of featuresWhile it has poor range, this inexpensive radio is our top recommendation in its price range
Rating Categories Cobra ACXT145 BC Link 2.0 Midland X-Talker 36 BaoFeng BF-F8HP Midland X-Talker T10
Range And Clarity (30%)
2
7
5
10
3
Ease Of Use (25%)
4
8
6
1
5
Weather Resistance And Durability (15%)
4
7
5
5
6
Battery Life (15%)
4
8
4
5
7
Weight And Size (15%)
9
3
7
4
8
Specs Cobra ACXT145 BC Link 2.0 Midland X-Talker 36 BaoFeng BF-F8HP Midland X-Talker T10
Measured Weight (Single Radio, with Batteries) 3.1 oz 11.0 oz 5.0 oz 7.8 oz 3.9 oz
Battery Capacity 300 mAh 2,300 mAh 700mAh 2,000 mAh 1,000 mAh
Battery Type NiMH, Alkaline AAA Lithium Ion NiHM, Alkaline AAA Lithium Ion AAA
Rechargeable? Yes, also can use normal AAA batteries Yes Yes, or normal AAA Yes No
Charge Via USB? Yes Yes Yes No n/a
Battery Life Test Results (hr:min) 14:20 22:45 11:40 17:40 21:20
Frequency Range 462.55 to 467.71 MHz 462.55 to 467.71 MHz 462.5625 to 467.7125 MHz 65-108MHz (FM Receive only) 136-174MHz and 400-520MHz (TX/RX) 462.55 to 467.71 MHz
Dimensions (in) Body Only 2 x 1 x 3.5" 3.9 x 2.4 x 2" Body;
3.15 x 2.2 x 1" Mic
1.30 x 2.20 x 6.10" 2 x 1.2 x 3.7" 2 x 1 x 3.5"
Channels 22 22 36 100+ 22
Privacy Codes? No Yes 121 available Yes Yes, 38 available
Keypad Lock? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
NOAA Weather Alerts? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
VOX? No No Yes Yes Yes
Scan Function? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Clips to Pack? Yes Yes Yes No (mounts sold separately) Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

At just 3.1 ounces and 5 inches tall including the antenna, the ACXT145 will barely be noticeable in your pocket. This small size comes at a price, as this radio is more expensive than some other options that had better range, battery life, and weather resistance.

Performance Comparison


The small display and minimal buttons of the ACXT145 can actually...
The small display and minimal buttons of the ACXT145 can actually make a simple machine a little more complicated than necessary.
Photo: Gray Grandy

Range and Clarity


The ACXT145 was consistently one of the first radios to lose connection as we drove away in our range tests. In a straight line with minimal obstructions, it failed to transmit a call at 1 mile away. It also came up short in our hill test both in good weather and in poor weather. When the radio was in range, it had adequate voice quality and clarity.

Ease of Use


Much like the other radios that use few buttons and no knobs for adjustments, learning to do basic functions like change the volume or channel took some learning time on the Cobra ACXT145. Reading the instructions did make these adjustments clear, but it was not entirely intuitive on our first try.

When we had these radios out in poor weather, we found the buttons too small to reliably operate with gloved hands. Even with bare fingers, we found the PTT button to be small and harder to press than most, sometimes leaving us unsure if we were transmitting or not.

When deciding where to carry the radio, you will want to find a place where it won't be pressing the buttons inadvertently. You are unlikely to change the channel accidentally due to the specific button presses necessary to make a real change, but the beeping with each button press could get old as the radio sit sat in our packs.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Weather Resistance and Durability


Cobra does not specify that this radio is rated for any sort of contact with water, so we did not submerge or soak it as we did to some others in the test that have a water-resistance rating. However, it did survive a few sprinkles and trips in a wet backpack. We don't expect it to survive much more than that due to its open Micro USB port and battery compartment without a seal. The casing of the radio feels adequately stout, and it doesn't have any small parts that look prone to breaking. The belt clip on the back is removable by bending a small plastic tab that could succumb to brute force. We were pleased to complete all of our testing and field use with no notable wear except a few minor scratches on this radio. If you do have problems, Cobra backs the radio with a one year warranty.

The ACXT145 fit nicely into our chalk bag or clipped to a harness...
The ACXT145 fit nicely into our chalk bag or clipped to a harness. Its small size make it ideal for some climbing applications, although some of our testers have found its range lacking while alpine climbing, where a direct line of sight is not a guarantee.
Photo: Gray Grandy

Battery Life


A nice feature of the Cobra ACXT145 came in the charging options. It came with rechargeable AAA batteries, so you could use the Micro USB plug on the side to recharge, or just throw in another set of AAA batteries if recharging is not an option. In our battery test, a low battery symbol appeared on the screen 14 hours and 15 minutes into the test. Five minutes later, it made its last transmission and beeped a few times to indicate that it was dying. Over 14 hours was a respectable, middle of the road performance in our battery test, but we would have like to have gotten a little more warning that it was about to die.

We like the ability to charge the Cobra with a micro USB cord.
We like the ability to charge the Cobra with a micro USB cord.
Photo: Gray Grandy

Weight and Size


This size of this radio is really where it shines. If you are very weight conscious when buying your gear, the Cobra should be on your list. It weighs only 3.1 ounces with batteries and is just about 5 inches tall. When testing, we would easily forget that we had it with us, and it would not feel like a brick pulling on our jacket pocket as some others did.

The tiny size of the Cobra allowed it to disappear into most...
The tiny size of the Cobra allowed it to disappear into most pockets, like the hip pocket in this backpack. The small orange PTT button was sometimes hard to push with gloves.
Photo: Gray Grandy

Value


While this radio was very small and light, a minor increase in weight and size to some other options will save you a few dollars and get you a better performing radio. If you just want a small radio that is reasonably capable, there are options that are a better bang for your buck. However, if you want a tiny radio and don't need impressive performance or weather resistance, the ACXT145 could be a good option for you.

Conclusion


While the Cobra ACXT145 did not impress us in many of the tests, especially with its range, its small size makes it notable and a worthy buy for specific users.

Gray Grandy